Mesh Networking Gear - Is It Worth The Plunge?

JoyfulNoise

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May 23, 2015
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So I've had just about enough of my Link(skips) router...I bought it 2 years ago as the top-of-the-line router and, within a year, the 2.4-GHz channel started acting up and randomly dropping out. Then the router would just decide to not communicate with anything. I tried tech support and got the usual run-around and non-helpful advice....don't you just love it when they tell you that the "fix" is to reset the router and completely wipe it out then download the upgraded firmware and reset everything all over again....EVEN WHEN YOU'RE MOSTLY USING THE FACTORY SETTINGS TO BEGIN WITH?!?!?!?! :brickwall: And yes, I did the whole channel surfing thing trying to find a better RF channel than the standard ones to avoid interference. Basically, this Linksys was junk out of the box and I'm done with it.

I have a large home and even with the best routers out there I still need a WiFi Range Extender to get everywhere I need it to be. So that adds more cost...

I'm now learning about Mesh network gear and, in an effort to cut through all the marketing hype and "independent" reviews that are (bogus and not at all independent) out there, I was wondering if anyone in the TFP community has set up mesh network gear like a Linksys Velop (not that Linksys is high on my list) or Netgear Orbi or Google WiFi? Any better? Any worse?

Looking for honesty here....

PS - I'd like a system that can attached to my 1.5TB external hard drive to offer network storage and my uses run the gamut from basic web-surfing/computing to tablet devices to streaming 4K video to gaming (WiiU mostly) with an eye toward also using some simple home automation like Amazon Echo (Alexa).
 

pabeader

LifeTime Supporter
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May 14, 2015
4,349
Cartersville Ga
I use third party firmware on my router. Currently I am using tomatousb on a cheaper d-link router and can stream while mowing the lawn. My recommendation, when asked, is if the person is at all 'geeky' I suggest buying a router with third party on it. There are a number of sources on the web. The beauty of this is you know it's installed and ready to go. The third party firmware opens up all the things that the router can do. Increase output power, have different named for the different channels. Functional QOS. The list is just about endless.
 

JoyfulNoise

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May 23, 2015
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Sadly my router issues are hardware based. It is my diagnosis that the hardware (particularly the 2.4GHz RF channel) is just failing. Even so, using 3rd party firmware is not something I'd probably embark on given my limited bandwidth these days for "pet projects".


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bdavis466

TFP Expert
Platinum Supporter
Aug 4, 2014
5,529
San Clemente, CA
I have had similar issues as long as I've had internet. 4 different modems and 6 different routers yet still having problems. The ISP says everything is fine on their end it's gotta be me.

I'm now using an Arris SB6190 and a Nighthawk X4 router. I'm pretty impressed with the router since I can get a signal well beyond my property line (I'm on an acre) and no longer need range extenders and passthrough routers. I am still getting a couple signal drops everyday and have no idea why.
 

bdavis466

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Aug 4, 2014
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San Clemente, CA
I'm impressed with what I've read on the Google wifi. The idea makes sense and it doesn't look like a couple units are anymore expensive than a high powered router.
 

JoyfulNoise

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I'm impressed with what I've read on the Google wifi. The idea makes sense and it doesn't look like a couple units are anymore expensive than a high powered router.
Yeah, that's my issue. I think the mesh network gear would be better as I have lots of walls that I need to beam through. Also, my cable runs into a "magic panel" in the hall closet and then the rats nest of telephone, cable and network wiring all run out of that into the various rooms. I think I should keep the modem in the cluster and then run the single out from there along one of the CAT5 cables to the main room. Keeping the router in my closet is just killing the signal (I think). But I also think going to a mesh network where the units communicate on a different carrier than the 2.4/5 GHz bands will provide better and more stable coverage.

Oh well, now I have to start punching holes in walls....


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bdavis466

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Aug 4, 2014
5,529
San Clemente, CA
Looks like they need power from an outlet and can either connect to eachother via Ethernet or wifi. The more I read, the more I think this is the way to go.

I had a similar setup I made using multiple routers as access points spaced throughout the house and it worked well. That's basically what this Google system is but setup and diagnostics are through an app.
 

dw886

Gold Supporter
Sep 19, 2016
248
ND
Personally, I've moved completely to Ubiquiti gear. I have 3 UAP-AC-PRO APs in my house, and I've never had better coverage / seamless roaming between APs. I'm going to add an outdoor AP to cover my pool, likely their newest "Mesh" version, the UAP AC Mesh Pro, to deal with the signal loss that happens going through our steel siding and rock.

The Ubiquiti gear has been rock solid - current uptime on each AP is 54 Days, 6 Hours, and they were only taken offline for a few minutes for a firmware upgrade. I have the same set of equipment setup at 2 different relatives locations with no issues.

The downside is that they're not exactly "consumer friendly" - you have to have a working knowledge of networking to some extent.

In my experience in helping friends, family, and neighbors, much of the WiFi issues are that there's a lack of understanding about how it works (Wireless Bands, Channel Widths, and Channels). For example, if you're running 3 APs like I am at 2.4 GHz (or you have 2 neighbors each with an AP and you have one as well), you should use the 20 MHz channel width so your channels aren't overlapping with your other APs (or your neighbors). If you have 3 devices, and your channel width set to 20 MHz, you need to be only using channels 1, 6, and 11 to make sure that the APs don't interfere with one another, etc. If the other 2 APs are your neighbors, if you could coordinate with them to use different channels (again 1, 6, or 11), you'd be miles ahead...using 5GHz, channel width and number isn't as important, but you still want to be on different channels than your neighbors...
 

miles267

Bronze Supporter
Sep 5, 2016
483
Arkansas
I've gone from Open-Mesh to Netgear Orbi. Amazed at the improvement of coverage and signal strength. Wouldn't have expected it.


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JoyfulNoise

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I agree that WiFi misunderstanding is a big issue and the fact that everything is WiFi nowadays means there will inevitably be collisions. But my problems are definitely not related to those issues because (A) i've been using network gear for almost two decades now and understand it quite well and (B) my router really is defective - the 2.4GHz just shuts off for no reason and stops transmitting (I can see the signal go dead on a meter a friend let me borrow). So it really is defective hardware and Linksys will not honor it. So I'm less then impressed with them, especially since I've always used Linksys over the years.

But, in researching new router brands, I came across the mesh network idea and I really do like it. Rather than one oversized ginormous RF blasting router, distribute three smaller ones that don't use the data bands to communicate with one another and avoid the issue of multiple access points all fighting for WiFi signal. Looks like Netgear and Google are going to get my attention from here on out....

Thanks for all the info folks. And please feel free to keep adding....
 

miles267

Bronze Supporter
Sep 5, 2016
483
Arkansas
Was originally letdown by Netgear Orbi's lack of Ethernet backhaul for communicating between master and satellite...also considering it's a star topology and it true mesh...but have tested numerous solutions (Eero, Luma, Open-Mesh) and am thoroughly impressed by it. Considering satellite and master communicate on a 1.7 gbs channel which is technically faster than Gigabit Ethernet. Even if it doesn't achieve the full 1.7 Gbs (it won't), it outperforms most, if not all, consumer grade mesh systems released to date.


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dw886

Gold Supporter
Sep 19, 2016
248
ND
Ekahau has a cool heatmapper that you can use to map things out depending on how far you want to go. It can help you in determining where you have deadspots in your home, and aid you in figuring out where to place things. It's also handy in determining sources of interference as well as what bands the neighbors are using.
 

JoyfulNoise

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May 23, 2015
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Ekahau has a cool heatmapper that you can use to map things out depending on how far you want to go. It can help you in determining where you have deadspots in your home, and aid you in figuring out where to place things. It's also handy in determining sources of interference as well as what bands the neighbors are using.
Thanks. That's good to know.


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txnole

LifeTime Supporter
Aug 18, 2014
544
Amelia Island, FL
I've had just about every make of router out there and I will never regret the cash I spent for the newer Apple AirPort Extreme. Great coverage range, great channeling, easy to manage traffic to bands, guest network, easy interface to manage port control, and six great big antennas built in to throw fire at bandwidth. Only router Ive ever owned that hit 1.1 Gbps through.